Connecticut Surgeon Reconnects With First Black Face Transplant Recipient

Robert Chelsea, the first Black patient to receive a full facial transplant, visited Connecticut on Monday to reconnect with his surgeon and advocate for more donors and awareness. In 2013, Chelsea was hit by a drunk driver in Los Angeles, resulting in severe burns on over 60 percent of his body and face. After undergoing more than 30 surgeries, Chelsea made history in 2019 as the first Black man and oldest recipient, at 68 years old, to receive a full face transplant. Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, the division chief of plastic surgery at Yale School of Medicine, performed the 16-hour surgery. Chelsea now travels across the country, raising awareness for facial transplants and spreading kindness.

The surgical team at Yale New Haven Health, led by Dr. Pomahac, recently started a face transplant team to offer facial reconstruction and transplants. Chelsea declined his first face donor opportunity, as the potential donor’s skin tone was significantly lighter than his own. Chelsea hopes that by sharing his story and advocating for more donors, others will consider becoming donors. He now uses his new face to eat once again, but his appearance is no longer important to him. Through school visits and awareness campaigns, Chelsea aims to foster empathy and encourage understanding for individuals with facial differences. To learn more about Chelsea’s journey or donate to his medical costs, visit his website.


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